Business & Strategy

Just don’t follow the herd; Communicate what you feel

Recognition of good work and appreciating small deeds may seem like an ordinary task, but its benefits are long-lasting

Updated: Aug 2, 2016 08:11:45 AM UTC

O.C. Tanner, featured on the 2016 FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® list. We help organisations create great work environments by inspiring and appreciating great work. Thousands of clients globally use the company’s cloud-based technology, strategy & design services, mobile application, awards, employee communication and education services to engage talent, increase performance, drive goals, and create experiences that fuel the human spirit. Visit:

Small recognitions go a long way in creating a value-stream of appreciation and with these small deeds, the receiver and the giver feels good and positivity is created. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Recognition is not something that should take an effort to be done. You cannot just put it down on your to-do list and then recognise people and appreciate their efforts like it’s a part of your job and you have to do it. Recognition should come from within, and should be genuine. There is nothing like ‘too’ frequent recognition, but there arises a case of ‘too’ frequent recognition if it is not genuine.

For some people, appreciating doesn’t come naturally. Maybe they are wired in a particular way and hence making them appreciate, even as a weekly task, is too much to ask for. Sometimes it is not within us to look for positives and appreciate people, and hence, we should not just strive to appreciate if we do not mean it.

So what do you do if you or your teams are not tuned to giving appreciation? The simplest process is to try and ingrain it into your daily activities. It is said that any action continuously practiced for 21 days becomes a habit. The number one lesson is, “It starts with you". People watch and do what you do and not what you say and what you put in your emails or put on your posters. The biggest lever to create a culture of appreciation is to lead by example. There is no better return you can get from the 100 things you may do to make recognition a culture in your company.

Step 1. Identify great work The first step is to try understanding and identifying great work. While searching for great deeds doesn’t come easy at first, a keen eye on any person putting extra efforts deserves appreciation. Start small; there is no harm in getting it wrong a few times. Link great work to what your company objective is. Is it revenue, cost saving, innovation or customer service? Can you make it specific to each department and see what behaviours would lead to that objective? Once you answer the above two questions, encourage those actions and behaviours or even the efforts to make those happen.

Step 2. Include it in your daily routine
The next step of inculcating appreciation in daily activities is to encourage efforts. Saying that one doesn’t need to lower the benchmark or expectations. Take for example, a child learning to walk. What we do to encourage those small steps is to show the child our encouragement and positive actions, so that we appreciate their efforts. They might fall and falter, but our constant encouragement to reach out to success and not lowering our expectation benchmark, in this case, learning to walk leads them to ingrain the most valuable lesson of life. Similarly, in daily life, while we need to have set parameters of success, we need to upkeep our benchmarks and ensure that the appreciation that is given is worth the job achieved.

On the lookout for great work, every minute deed needs to be looked at in a positive way and needs to be appreciated. Be it anybody; family, neighbour or colleagues, all do some amazing deeds which go unnoticed in everyday life. Here is where those small recognitions go a long way in creating a value-stream of appreciation. With these small deeds, not just the receiver, but also the giver feels good and there is positivity that is created. Saying that, one needs to be genuine while offering appreciation. Don’t do it if you feel you are just making it up. Remember to transfer the feeling of how you feel and say it in your own words.

Step 3. Say it loud. It's the small stuff
The secret to incorporating a value-stream of appreciation is to keep looking for positive events, actions and keep saying it aloud on why one thinks that they are great jobs. To create a habit, one needs to keep doing it every day and mean it with efforts. One should start by a rule of no criticism for the initial 10 days.

Remember, while in school, small things like completing homework or neat handwriting got us good grades and star marks, which we were proud to bring back home and show to our parents and friends. Those small appreciations were displayed in the classroom or notice boards and it egged us to go back to school and work towards better grades. Similar is the experience with appreciation in adult life as well where good work, however, small it is, deserves appreciation which encourages one to aspire for greater successes.

Step 4:  Say it correctly
While you start appreciating the finer facts of life, the next stage is to broadcast and correctly communicate what you feel good about others. It's only half the job done by appreciating a good job, but what remains more important is how you communicate your intent. You could be doing a great job at recognition, but not saying it correctly defeats the entire purpose of the exercise.

Take an example of how we appreciate a young child for anything worthy that he has done; for example, being great in extra-curricular activities. Observe the methods of how that kid is appreciated, right from the body language which is more open towards the child, to the way of showing appreciation and the tone of voice. The entire way of communicating appreciation resonates around positivity and happiness, which forms the crux of the appreciation activity. This is how genuine appreciation looks like and is the way it should be practiced.

Using the SAIL approach is also a great way of communicating appreciation. Talking about a situation, the approach that was taken and the impact or the result that appreciation creates, linking it back to the larger corporate objective helps in engaging better with real-time appreciation. This simple duplication builds transparency on why we are recognising and inspires people who see the recognition.

Step 5: Make it a memorable experience
Combining well-spread-out recognition identification and communicating recognition in the right words helps creates total recognition. Give it some thought before you make an event out of it. Is it timely? Are all the stakeholders and people who matter to the recipient invited? Can we get a personal note to the recipient? Can we get a personalised gift with pictures or even better present a video from a family member at the event? All of this multi-folds the impact and creates a memorable experience for the recipient.

This is what helps a great deal in enhancing the reputation of a great man-manager, and ensures that one always remains ahead of the curve, hence becoming an absolutely genuine connoisseur. Start by leading this one day at a time, one person at a time and lead the culture of appreciation.

-By Zubin Zack, Director and Chief Recognition Strategist, O.C. Tanner India

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